During the mid-19th century, Bedford like many towns saw a large increase in population. The southern side of Bedford along Ampthill Road was one of the areas of new housing development. Some of the housing was lived in by employees at the Britannia Ironworks owned by prominent Bedford Wesleyan Methodists, James and Frederick Howard.
One of the Howard’s senior employees was agricultural engineer, Edward Tenney Bousfield who was also an ardent Methodist. He and his wife, Charlotte built a house, Alpha Villa in Ampthill Road. They saw a need for a new place of worship. There were then in Bedford, two Wesleyan chapels: St Paul’s in Harpur Street and St Mary’s in Cauldwell Street. Initially the Bousfield’s hosted Sunday worship in their home before a new chapel was built.
The chapel was built on the corner of Ampthill and Offa Roads. It was designed in an Early English style by Mr C Day with the building contractor being Mr LB Moore. The foundation stones were laid on 27 May 1873 and were followed by a fundraising dinner and tea together with worship. The chapel included a tower built in memory of Rev John Moore who had been a brother-in-law of Edward Bousfield. The tower contained a bell in memory of Sunday School Superintendent, Mr Curtis.
Described as ‘Wesleyan Chapel, Ampthill Road’, registration for worship was made on 6 November 1873 by Thomas L Gray of Bedford, wine merchant (trustee) in time for the official opening of the chapel on 12 November 1873. Registration for Marriages was made in 1877.
The chapel had a successful Sunday school, but for many years’ accommodation was inadequate. Approaches were made to Mr Bousfield to make available land next to the chapel, but nothing was forthcoming. Eventually land further down Offa Road was purchased and Sunday school rooms were built by Samuel Foster and opened on 11 July 1901.
However, in his will Mr Bousfield left a plot of land next to the chapel to its Trustees and a schoolroom, kitchen and toilets were built on the site in the 1970s.
An Asian congregation held afternoon services in the chapel for many years.
Southend Methodist Chapel closed in 2014.
Sources and References:
Bedfordshire Chapels and Meeting Houses: Official Registration 1672-1901 Volume 75 Bedfordshire Historical Record Society – Edited by Edwin Welch
Bedford Southend Methodist Church Centenary 1873-1973
Bedfordshire Mercury: 31 May 1873
Glory for God, A History of the Bousfields of Newark and Bedford to 1903 by John Hamilton
The Bousfield Diaries Volume 86 Bedfordshire Historical Record Society – Edited by Richard Smart